KUT made a commitment last year to track the diversity of the sources you hear on the air in our local news coverage. We’re analyzing the data to break down information based on gender, race/ethnicity and the expertise of those sources. We’re nearing a full year of tracking that data on a monthly basis.
Here’s the latest on what we’ve found.
What’s clear from the data is that the number of male vs. female sources can vary widely from month to month. Some of that is dependent on the news. In months dominated by coverage of the Texas Legislature, there is a clear bias toward male sources. Part of that is undoubtedly due to the fact that white men account for the vast majority of state lawmakers and elected leaders. However, that means we need to work harder to ensure women’s voices are not lost in that coverage.
Drilling into the data a little, we can see male journalists at KUT consistently demonstrate a bias toward male sources. While the trend has narrowed since we began tracking this information (we have moved closer to gender parity since our baseline sample in the first quarter of 2018), our male journalists have yet to see a month where their number of female sources outnumber their male sources. In June 2019, we achieved our most equal distribution with a 53% male and 47% female mix of sources.
A more complicated picture emerges when looking at the gender balance of sources used by our female journalists. The overall trend is much closer to parity in this comparison. In several months, female sources outnumber male sources and, on average, the gap between them is much smaller than with male journalists’ sources. However, there has been a pronounced reversal of that trend in the most recent two months we analyzed.
According to data from the Texas Demographic Center, the population in the nine counties around Austin was roughly 53% non-Hispanic white, 32% Latinx (of any race), 7% black and about 5% Asian.
Our data shows that we are still consistently under-representing people of color — especially Latinx and Asian residents. While we have consistently improved from our original baseline in the first quarter of 2018, when 75% of our sources were non-Hispanic white, the proportion of white sources continues to overrepresent that group.
We began with an over-representation of sources who are government officials in the first three months that we tracked. We broke that down a little when we started tracking on a monthly basis and starting looking at subgroups, including elected officials, educators, police and others.
You can see from the graph below that our use of elected officials as on-air sources jumped significantly during the legislative session (January to May).